Friday News, February 27
School Funding Still Being Debated In State Legislature
(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson are scheduled to meet with local school officials on Saturday morning, and no doubt the topic of school funding will be discussed. At odds over education funding, Iowa lawmakers have established a negotiating committee to attempt to reach compromise.
A joint conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers met Thursday. The Republican-majority House and Democratic-controlled Senate must determine a funding level for K through 12 education for the upcoming academic year.
House Republicans have advanced a plan that would provide about $100 million in additional funding, while Senate Democrats want to give schools over $200 million in additional funding. Both proposals include money dedicated to teacher leadership training.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, calls education a priority because it's a "ticket to a better life."
But Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, says the House proposal is what the state can afford.
School officials say the 1.25 percent increase is simply not enough, and they would like to see the Senate version of 4 percent, or $200 million be approved. However, Soderberg says if that happens, many other programs will need to be cut.
Soderberg blames the delay for the school funding decision on the Senate Democrats.
Iowa Exported $15.1 Billion In Merchandise And Food
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Commerce says Iowa companies exported a record $15.1 billion worth of merchandise last year which contributed to the nation's record export level exceeding $2.3 trillion.
In the report released Thursday the government says machinery led Iowa exports totaling about $3.6 billion in value. That was followed by food and related products and agricultural products.
Canada was the leading destination for Iowa products followed by Mexico, Japan and China.
More than 3,300 companies - by far most of them with fewer than 500 employees - exported goods in the most recent report.
Coinciding with the release of the data, the White House issued a statement citing it as a reason Congress should act on new trade agreements now in negotiations to expand trade with additional countries.
CoOportunity To Be Liquidated This Weekend
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An insurance cooperative created to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska will be formally liquidated this weekend.
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that a Polk County judge has agreed to approve the liquidation plan, which will be finalized on Saturday night.
CoOportunity is a federally funded nonprofit established to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska. Gerhart took the cooperative over after he determined the nonprofit's claims would exceed its available cash.
About 24,000 people still have CoOportunity plans in Iowa and Nebraska, with about 5,500 who bought coverage on the insurance exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Gerhart said that people who received plans through the exchange must enroll in new coverage by midnight Saturday to maintain any federal tax subsidies.
Hackers Invade Anthem Health Insurance Company
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state insurance official says nearly 173,000 Iowans may have been affected by the recent data breach at health insurer Anthem Incorporated.
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that 172,727 policyholders in Iowa may have had their personal information compromised. The cyberattack into a database of more than 80 million people was discovered earlier this month. The health insurance provider says hackers gained access to names, birthdates, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other information of people who are currently covered or previously had coverage.
Gerhart says Anthem will contact each person affected by the breach and inform them of available identity theft services and other protections. He says the Iowa Insurance Division continues to work with Anthem to monitor the situation.